BEIRUT: Lebanon supports any decision or action that unifies Arab countries, even when it is to some extent wrong, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said Thursday at an Arab ministers meeting overshadowed by Saudi strikes in Yemen.
Bassil is not known for his oratory skills, but his speech at the Arab foreign ministers conference in Sharm el-Sheikh was particularly tangled and, perhaps intentionally, vague.
“We believe that any stand that unites Arabs, even if on some wrongness, is much better that any position that is a bit wrong but does not unify [Arabs],” Bassil told the conference.
The conference precedes the annual Arab League summit that will be held this weekend in the Egyptian resort town.
The speech did not clearly state Lebanon’s official position on the Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen launched overnight, but Bassil said that there was more agreement than disagreement in the case.
Warplanes from Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched strikes against Houthi rebels fighting to oust Yemen’s president.
The kingdom was reportedly contributing 100 warplanes to the operation – dubbed “Storm of Resolve” – and more than 85 more were provided by the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan.
Egyptian officials have also said that Saudi Arabia is planning a ground invasion of its southern neighbor with coalition troops.
Iran has denounced the assault on the Houthi militia group, which it backs, and warned that the move would worsen the sectarian tensions fueling wars around the Middle East.
Bassil said the problem in Yemen, and other Arab countries, was that authority was often claimed by groups separate from the state, and many of these groups are affiliated with foreign powers.
Bassil said Lebanon would always support any Arab unanimous decision because it shows strength and unity, but would abstain from taking a stand on matters where Arabs were divided.
He said a basic common principle should be supporting the legitimate forces in any Arab country.
“Yemen has many projections on our countries, including Lebanon, which means that when the idea of supporting constitutional legitimacy in any country is let go, any other Arab country will be subject to similar threats,” Bassil said.
However, Bassil also said he believed in the policy of non-intervention in the affairs of any Arab country, as is stipulated in the Arab League’s charter.
The minister highlighted the need to adopt peaceful dialogue and political solutions rather than war to solve internal conflicts, saying the experience of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq prove that violence only delays the inevitable political compromise.
He said any collective Arab action, including military action, is welcome when it meets the standards that “assure everyone… and respect the unity of countries and their sovereignty.”
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Progressive Socialist Party leader had offered their support to military action against the Houthi rebels, while Hezbollah strongly condemned the intervention as an aggression.